Phish Plays Numbers Show In Las Vegas: Setlist, Recap & The Skinny

Phish Plays Numbers Show In Las Vegas: Setlist, Recap & The Skinny

Phish began the final Fall Tour 2021 stop on Thursday with their first of four shows in Las Vegas. Last night’s “Number Show” at the MGM Grand Garden Arena featured a setlist in which nearly every song had a number in the title, including a debut cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “If 6 Was 9.”

The best (and worst) Phish shows are often known for something. Usually, it’s something very simple: The show where they jammed everything; or where they busted out “L.A. Woman,” or the one where the whole show was in and out of “Tweezer” or the one when “Runaway Jim” went on for an hour or when they played the entire Dark Side of the Moon front to back for a laugh. For the veterans and the new attendees alike, the lure of a single show ending up in this category is part of the why we do this for Phish fans, and the limitless possibilities are the thing of pre-show-conversation legend.

Where, then, does October 28, 2021 stand in such a pantheon? The 12th show of many, many noteworthy shows at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, as the lights went down to kick off another Halloween run, what something would the show be known for?

Maybe it would be known as the show where they opened with a one-of-a-kind, top-of-the-heap version of “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” aka “2001.” This one started with an extended intro, a true aliens-are-abducting-us-all bit of sonic weirdness, of the likes you’re lucky to get deep in the second set, let alone to open the show. A version fully ensconced in the purple-then-red lights of Chris Kuroda, that found a funkified stratosphere of full-band give-and-take that “2001” doesn’t quite get to so much anymore. It was good enough that the show could have been known for it, maybe, it was that good.

Or maybe it would be known as the show when they busted out a version of Prince’s “1999”? Only the third time ever, hitting a sweet spot just two songs into the night, the take seemed to punctuate the band’s return to a mid-90s level playing this tour. Ultra rare bust outs are an easy token to wrap a whole show’s personality around, and the extended take on the ’80s pop classic, so early in the night, with its disco-for-all energy certainly fit the bill on its own, not to mention later rare welcome-back-to-the-fold bust outs of “Strawberry Letter 23,” “Five Years,” “Two Versions of Me” and “NO2.” These were the kind of setlist choices that could punctuate an entire show as the one where they played all those rarities.

But let’s not finish our categorization yet! The Thursday nighter could easily be the one where they jammed everything quite like the legendary “Jam Filled” concert from the Baker’s Dozen residency at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. It’s not often that the band is so in the zone as they were Thursday night, where each member makes their presence known from the starting moments. Where improvisation, true four-person improv, is the norm rather than the exception from start to finish. How often do you get extended, out-looking versions of “555” and “NO2” and more? That anything in the setlist was fair game for a day-trip of mindbending proportions, where fist-pump climax met knee-bend boogie groove in totally who knew!?!? places, is the kind of once-in-a-blue-moon happening that would leave its mark on any show. Yeah, the one where they just jammed would have been an appropriate label for this one.

Read on after The Skinny for the rest of the recap and more.

The Skinny

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The Setlist

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The Venue

MGM Grand Garden Arena [See upcoming shows]

16,800

11 shows
10/31/2014, 11/01/2014, 11/02/2014, 10/28/2016, 10/29/2016, 10/30/2016, 10/31/2016, 10/31/2018, 11/01/2018, 11/02/2018, 11/03/2018

The Music

6 songs / 8:07 pm to 9:25 pm (78 minutes)

11 songs / 10:00 pm to 11:30 pm (90 minutes)

17 songs
12 originals / 5 covers

2004

63.31 [Gap chart]

If 6 Was 9 (Jimi Hendrix),

1999, Strawberry Letter 23, Twenty Years Later, Seven Below, If 6 Was 9, Five Years, Two Versions Of Me, N02, My Sweet One,

Two Versions Of Me LTP 11/27/2009 (435 Show Gap)

Seven Below 17:24

Grind 2:08

Lawn Boy – 1, Billy Breathes – 1, Farmhouse – 1, Round Room – 2, Undermind – 2, Joy – 2, Fuego – 1, Misc. – 2, Covers – 5

The Rest

72° and Clear at Showtime

Koa 4

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Even with all that and more, if the show was simply known as the one where they debuted “If 6 Was 9” by Jimi Hendrix, that would make perfect sense. It wasn’t a perfunctory nod to the guitar god, but a true pre-rehearsed exploration of the psychedelic inner-workings of a pure Hendrix vehicle. Probably not a stretch to suggest that the song had never quite been jammed out like this was, a who’s-leading-whom centerpiece of the second set that had the wig-flipped audience unflipping their wigs and the band operating at the highest of high levels. Sure, if this was the “If 6 Was 9” show, that would work.

Given all these different reasons why the opening night of 2021’s Halloween run might make the all-timer list, looking at all the uber-noteworthy elements it might stake its claim on, it’s rather remarkable that the show will most likely not be known for any of these things. Crazy! No, 10/28/2021 will, without a doubt, be known as The Numbers Show. Because all those rarities and debuts and jams all happened in a setlist scheme that started as high as they go at 2001 and ended with the number zero, going “backwards down the number line” quite literally.

Each song was a number or contained a number. Each one was smaller than the last, the ploy, as it were, crossing over the border at setbreak, so that if you weren’t guessing at potential song choices midway, you definitely spent the intermission contemplating the options. If “Twenty Years Later” and “Seven Below” were obvious selections given the band’s song list, the anything-goes mentality, the level of playing from the entire band and the Las Vegas Halloween run audience giddiness brought even the most basic of setlist staples into the upper echelon.

The show itself was a living, breathing countdown, worthy of a NASA who sends its spacecraft into and beyond the stratosphere to explore the unknown. Thursday’s show broke free from the proverbial Earth’s gravity and enjoyed an intense weightlessness that few do. The conceit left the latter half of the second set, the so-called “fourth quarter” of the show, lacking a keystone jam vehicle, but it was hard to notice these details in the moment when you’re orbiting the planet with a four-man crew that was game for any and all interplanetary excursions. The trajectory of the night appropriately gave the g-force’d audience not one, but two separate show closers, counting down to first “First Tube” with its retrofuturistic boogie and then finally igniting at zero with an anticipated “Character Zero,” a light-this-candle explosion that never fails to achieve lift-off.

The encore was a two-step summation of the numerical madness that had just gone down, starting with “Backwards Down The Number Line” and ending with the a capella “Grind.” The nightlong countdown paired with alternate lyrics to “Grind” and a post-show social media post telling fans to start “counting your winnings now” highlighting the number 4680, will only add to any what-will-they-do? Halloween speculation already in full internet conspiracy theory mode as it is, elevating what might be seen as a one-off gimmick to a numbers-from-Lost what does it all mean?!? phenomenon. So, while it was the kind of show that could define an entire run or even a no-duds tour — as in: the Halloween run when they played the Number show — knowing Phish’s history and the state of their playing this fall, it feels just as likely that the defining characteristic of the weekend has not yet been revealed.

Phish Fall Tour 2021 resumes in Las Vegas on Friday. Livestreams can be purchased through LivePhish.com.

Watch fan-shot video from last night’s show below:

If 6 Was 9

Phish From The Road Photos

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Poster

https://www.instagram.com/p/CVlHYSLlJVH/https://www.instagram.com/p/CVlIvhQFvkn/https://www.instagram.com/p/CVlJTeUFFsS/